Other Ex FFA Leader Tennell Brewington Arrested And Charged By State of Delaware

It sounds like Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is finally clearing up the lingering messes from the charter school financial scandals.  Dr. Tennell Brewington, the co-director of Family Foundations Academy, was arrested and charged on October 24th according to Jennifer Flueckiger with WMDT.

A Public Information Officer from the Delaware DOJ told 47ABC that Brewington was arrested on October 24, 2016, and charged with two counts of theft greater than $1500, two counts of unlawful use of a credit card greater than $1500, one count of unlawful use of a payment card less than $1500, and one count of official misconduct.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice dealt with a guilty plea from the other co-director of FFA, Sean Moore.  He faces a potential prison term of thirty years.  If I had to guess, Brewington’s charges from Delaware couldn’t come until she was cleared of any potential federal charges.  Or perhaps they were waiting on Moore to give information when he was arrested in another state.

There is no word yet on Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy.  State audit investigations found they too stole money from schools.  Justice may be slow at times, but it does happen eventually!

 

Ex Delaware Charter Leader Sean Moore Facing 30 Years In Federal Prison For Stealing School Funds

22 months after serious allegations arose regarding theft of school funds, justice finally caught up with Sean Moore.  The former Family Foundations Academy co-director faced a federal judge today and said he was guilty.  When any public schools gets federal funds and some of those federal funds are stolen, the feds get first dibs on prosecution.  But Moore made it easy for them by pleading guilty today.  He faces sentencing on March 2nd, 2017.

The Family Foundations Academy was probably my first really big investigative piece.  It began during their charter renewal process in December of 2014 and stretched out the next few months.  I don’t know how much my initial reporting on Moore and fellow co-director Tennell Brewington’s activities led to what happened today.  The feds rolled these charges down a couple of months ago.  So why did it take so long for Moore to enter a plea?  From what I’m hearing, they had to find him first.  That took some doing.

Moore’s fellow co-director, Tennell Brewington, is gainfully employed in Delaware.  She was terminated from Family Foundations Academy when Moore took over the school during his brief coup-detat but she too was found to have stolen money from the school.  Initial reports indicated she did not take as much money as Moore, but if she used any federal funds she too would face a federal judge.  If not, I’m still waiting on Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn to do something.  And what about Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover?  I guess these things take time.

From the United States Department of Justice:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Sean Moore, age 43, of New Castle, Del., pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program theft before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews.  Moore is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2017.

According to court records and statements made in open court, between July 1, 2011 and January 31, 2015, while serving as the Director of Finance and Operations for the Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in New Castle, Del., Moore embezzled $161,871 from the school. 

Moore accomplished this embezzlement in a number of ways.  First, Moore charged personal expenses to an unauthorized credit card he opened in the name of the school.  Moore also abused the State of Delaware’s voucher program, by which charter schools are permitted to submit qualified expenses for reimbursement, and the State of Delaware’s procurement card system, by which the State of Delaware issues credit cards to charter school administrators to purchase necessary school supplies.  In addition, Moore stole money from the school’s fundraising account, which consisted of money collected from parents of school students, local sponsors, and an after-school program.  Moore also took money from the school’s construction loan account.

Moore used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as retail purchases, home improvement purchases, electronics, auto loan payments, auto services and accessories, federal tax payments, groceries, entertainment, food, gas, travel, gifts and collectibles, shoes, hotels, jewelry, train tickets, and video games. 

During this time, the Family Foundations Academy received significant federal funding, which provides the basis for the federal program theft charges.  The maximum penalty for each count is ten years in prison followed by a three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General, and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth L. Van Pelt is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

I would like to know how Moore could settle with the Board of Directors at FFA over stolen funds.  If he stole $161k in funds and settled with them for $67k, as per WDEL, that is $94,000 in lost education funding for Delaware kids.  That is some serious coin.  And Moore only paid back $13k of that settlement amount.  But he will face jail time.  That is all but a guarantee.

As Matt Denn Goes On An Arrest & Indictment Spree In Other State Agencies, Charter Leaders Still Aren’t Facing The Music

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn announced seven arrests and indictments stemming from misuse of funds at the Department of Health and Social Services.  Meanwhile, several charter leaders and employees still haven’t been arrested for crimes involving school funds.  This has gone on way too long!  I’m not buying any more excuses on this.  We’ve all seen the audits.  We’ve seen the articles.  Why aren’t these charter leaders being charged for their crimes Matt Denn?  Who is protecting them?

In the article covering the arrests, Denn is quoted as saying:

This case is part of an intensified focus our office is trying to bring to fraud being committed against the state’s public benefit programs.

So public benefits demands an accounting, but school funds are okay?  In the case of Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover, which was the first of the charter audits coming out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office last year, nothing has happened.  Where is his arrest?  And Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy?  And the lady from Providence Creek?  And what about Sally Maldonado and the maintenance guy at Kuumba Academy?  And the board president at Delaware College Prep?  And what about what will come out from any future audits coming from the Auditor of Accounts?  I like Matt Denn, but it is beginning to look like a bit of a cover-up in terms of not charging these school “leaders”.  In terms of Maldonado, why is she allowed to serve on state committees and task forces concerning crucial education decisions but she gets no accountability for what amounts to a raise she gave herself with no board approval?

One of the individuals charged with this theft of funds from DHSS was Kamilah Laws, who was also a contractor with the Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  She was contracted with the DOE during the formal review process for the Delaware Met, which was ordered to shut down in mid-January of this year. Isn’t that interesting?  (this corrects an error I previously made in stating that Ms. Laws was on the board at Delaware Met.  She was not)

Theft is theft Matt Denn.  So I am openly and publicly challenging you to answer these questions: when will the charter leaders and employees who stole money from kids (cause that’s what it comes down to) be held accountable?  Will they?  Is there any reason why they wouldn’t?  Is Delaware law upheld only with certain state agencies?

15 Who Made An Impact On 2015: The Charter Thieves

The biggest Delaware charter school news this year definitely belonged to the three charter bandits: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Noel Rodriguez.  The first two were the heads of school at Family Foundations Academy while Rodriguez belonged to Academy of Dover.  Altogether, the trio managed to abscond over $300,000 of school funds for personal purchases.  And that was just the verified amount.  Over $1.3 million could not be verified as school or personal purchases by the Auditor of Accounts in Delaware.  That is some serious coin!

Luckily, none of them are currently employed by the schools.  *Brewington surfaced at Christiana in the Emotional Therapeutic Support classroom as a one-on-one teacher.  Shortly before Thanksgiving she was no longer there.  Moore and Rodriguez have been very quiet.  Rodriguez was last seen at the Amazon Distribution Center in Middletown but he was let go around the same time the auditor investigation into Academy of Dover came out last June.

Many are wondering why the three are not in jail.  Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle, a huge supporter of charters in Delaware, was wondering the same thing.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said his office is looking into the matter.  This is why State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 needs to pass, which would make all charter school audits go through Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  Resistance from the Delaware Charter Schools Network reached a fever pitch last Spring, even resulting in the non-profit recruiting parents to fill out an online form on their website which automatically went to the Delaware legislators.  The bill passed the House on June 30th, but every single House Republican voted no along with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques.  When the legislators return in January, this bill will be in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.

In October, Wagner’s office released a report that showed some other charter schools that had very suspect incidents of financial abuse.  Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep’s incidents were not as egregious as those of Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, but they are still a pattern that needs to change at Delaware charter schools.  In years past, Pencader Business School and Delaware Military Academy were also investigated for misuse of state funds.  While this is certainly not indicative of all charters in Delaware, it is far too many.  Education is about students, not a personal ATM machine!

*This article has been corrected to give a more accurate read on where Dr. Tennell Brewington wound up.  Apologies for the error!

Delaware Attorney General Office Investigating Ex-Principal Noel Rodriguez of Academy of Dover

According to an article on WBOC’s website, former Academy of Dover Principal Noel Rodriguez is being investigated by the Office of Civil Rights and Public Trust division of the Delaware Attorney General’s office.  This office, which opened in January when Attorney General Matt Denn took office, also investigated the former heads of school at Family Foundations Academy, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, but no charges were filed in that case.

The heat is on for charter schools after this report came out.  With seven charters under investigation by the State Auditor, Tom Wagner, you can be sure legislators will be pushing for radical change.  One of them, State Rep. Kim Williams, finally got her House Bill 186 released from the House Education Committee after Chair Earl Jaques sat on it for a week.  The bill goes to the House for a full vote, but it is not on any agenda yet.  Furthermore, even if it passes the House, it would go to the Senate Education Committee, which probably won’t convene again until January 2016 when the legislators take their 6 month hiatus.